What is a smart city? Technology and examples

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Approaching construction from an efficient and smart perspective is the raison-d’ être of smart cities. There are so many different aspects which have an impact on smart cities: energy, transportation, waste management, mobility, not to mention the efficient construction of smart buildings and infrastructures integrated in the city.


A smart city is defined as a city in which information and communication technologies are used to improve the citizens’ quality of life, to boost the efficient use of resources, and to improve sustainability. It goes without saying that a city is considered sustainable when its buildings are sustainable; but what exactly do we mean when we talk about these types of buildings?


The importance of constructing efficient buildings

45% of the energy required to commission a building is linked to its temperature control system, and although this is its largest energy expenditure, the good news is that by implementing different energy efficiency techniques, consumption can be reduced by up to 90%.


A building’s energy consumption can be fully optimized in many different ways, these include: insulating the building envelope to help to reduce energy consumption, eliminating thermal bridges, installing double or triple glazing, and countless other measures which are beneficial to the environment.


Energy and smart cities

Finding a way to implement sustainable energy sources is another pressing challenge for the construction industry and particular emphasis has been placed on the following three energy sources:

  • Geothermal energy: a type of renewable energy in which heat is drawn from the ground to provide an alternative and energy-efficient source of unlimited heat.
  • Cogeneration: a system in which thermal and electrical energy are generated simultaneously.
  • Building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV): the integration of photovoltaic modules in a particular building’s structure, to replace more conventional materials.

Another feature that these types of cities offer is the efficient management of resources, and this includes information. When we talk about the connection between the construction sector and smart cities, it is important that we do not overlook the role played by Building Information Modeling (BIM). By using the BIM methodology, we can anticipate the energetic behaviour of a particular building, therefore making it possible to make more informed environmental decisions.


Construction 4.0, the key to smart cities

Information is power, and buildings can generate high-value information. By installing sensors, smart cities are able to access information which can be used for city management. In Construction 4.0, Internet of Things (IoT) sensors are used to gather information that can be used by governments for preventive actions. These sensors collect a wide range of information such as pollution levels -determined from the air quality level-, and safety levels which can help to prevent fires, floods, explosions, etc.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that buildings have a crucial part to play in paving the way for smart cities, and as such, it is essential that the construction sector continues to take two key issues into consideration; the efficiency and sustainability of each building.